Die Bärliner - The Bard College Berlin Student Blog
Tag "Travel"
on the Bard College Berlin Student Blog

View from Blithewood Garden on Bard College Campus featuring Annie Swett (EPST 2019) and Nancy Stanley (HAST 2019) (Credit: Emma Jacoby)

Studying abroad for one year at two separate institutions on two continents has been and will be exhausting but beautiful. The decision you made to spend two semesters in two separate locations was not taken lightly. After two years at BCB, you probably did know everyone and had taken classes across several concentrations; it was normal that you felt a little restless. You and most of your friends consequently decided to study abroad at BGIA, CEU, Bard, Lingnan, Sciences Po — and for two semesters instead of just one. Silly as it may seem, if you were considering spending those two semesters at two institutions, you realized it would be a good idea to come up with a kurz und knackig (short and sweet) introduction to your life. Even before coming to upstate New York, you’d been asked which state in the US you were from countless times. So your spiel was to establish that you were a German-but-international student from an undergraduate program at Bard College Berlin who has lived in places like Bangladesh and Georgia, yet always ended up at English-speaking international schools where picking up an American accent proved to be surprisingly easy (and franky unavoidable).

Your time at Bard during the Fall Semester began with an unexciting eleven-hour layover in Dublin, one that was made even more unpleasant than usual by the cold you had caught just twelve hours before your flight. After that fiasco of an airport experience, you would not recommend that particular AerLingus connection to future study abroad students.  Thankfully, things definitely picked up for you from there. Insider information about airlines or cafeteria food is something you’ve always appreciated in reflections about academic experiences when making big decisions, such as where to go to college or study abroad. You hope that your reflection, through the sharing of some of your unprofessional opinions on Bard and CEU, might be helpful to others in the middle of filling out their study abroad forms.

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From the road, Bosnia and Herzegovina (Credit: Claire August)

In the center of town, a group of men played oversized chess.

H. told me how, after the war [*1], many countries donated trams to Sarajevo, and this is why the trams came up and down the narrow street in various shapes and colors: they were from Germany, Japan, and Switzerland, to name a few.

From the road at sunset, we look into apartments with rooms so obscure their thick color reminded me of dark red bedsheets. Between the roads, emptied out valleys. It’s possible to forget how flat Berlin is and to forget what hills are like. Hills remind you of the size of a place. Berlin feels like neighborhoods put together like puzzle pieces, while Sarajevo raises its city-edges towards you. It was winter in Sarajevo but it was no longer winter when we got closer to the border with Croatia, where it blushed with warmth and we pulled off the road to eat oysters. They were ice cold. The waiter pointed and said, they come from the water right over there.

(Recorded as H. and I walked through the center of Sarajevo.)

In H.’s house there were 12 jars of honey. We counted.

Trinken wir lieber ein Glas zuviel. I am listening to this song [*2] as we drive, and it reminds me of what it is like to travel. I’ve heard people say that they travel but that they are certainly not tourists. I don’t think this is possible. All recreational travel is plainly indulgent; to avoid the word ‘tourist’ (thereby avoiding all of the word’s negative connotations) is to also avoid this truth of indulgence. Travel like this is to drink a glass from a country that is not ‘yours,’ and to sometimes drink one glass too many. Is all travel a form of excess? I’d like to think not, at least not in every case. Travel can, of course, be an educational experience.

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View of a medieval look out in Sion, Switzerland. Photo by the author

View of a medieval look out in Sion, Switzerland. Photo by the author























1. I have never before been calm at the airport. Airport is synonymous with rush, chaos, discomfort. I believe it is distinctly a quality of the European continent to casually fly. I forget countries can be so petite, no one checked my passport.

2. Geneva wears a suit.

3. The lesbian bar is a candlelit library, everyone whispers and eats peanut flavored chips. I suspect there are more men here than women. I nod and pretend I understand what they are saying to me.

4. Notes on The Lake:

  • Same color as the sky. If the jet wasn’t there you might not be able to tell the difference. I am certain I could walk on the surface.
  • I never before thought about the way water falls. The jet is a waterfall without the backdrop. I spend a lot of time counting rainbows in the water spray.
  • My favorite part about the lookout spot in Geneva is the people taking pictures in front of the jet. Tourists with big backpacks, so happy to stand in front of an enormous gray lake.
  • I want to take pictures with them; maybe we could make it into a family portrait of travelers.
  • More notes on the lake later.

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Acting for Peace team, Pfunds/Austria. An inspiring outing to a teepee village and the people who made the whole experience possible. Photo by Inasa Bibic.

Acting for Peace team, Pfunds/Austria. An inspiring outing to a teepee village and the people who made the whole experience possible. Photo by Inasa Bibic.

Dont hate the circumstance, you may miss the blessing. – Marshall Rosenberg

I am running towards something unknown in a never-ending direction, with no lights, and no passers-by. The night is cold, and my sight clouded, long thin shadows run alongside me – I don’t know where to turn. I am utterly lost. In the imaginative realm of the mind, the dissolution of my supposed path is already taking place. I see the next five months of my life becoming increasingly blurry, out of focus, disappearing from my sight. When the known becomes the unknown and the other unknown is taken away from you, as if I am spinning down the vortex of an unpredictable rabbit hole. This is how I felt one warm summer day in mid-July, when my afternoon nap nightmare of losing the grip on my supposed life for the next few months came true. I received a decisive email that in that moment had already started a process of inner transformation – without me even knowing how it might change the course of my life.

My exchange to Al Quds Bard Honors College in Palestine for the fall was canceled, due to the reawakened upheavals in the Gaza Strip and the general instability of the Palestinian state.

What is peace? Is it a mirage, a chemical hallucinogen, or a myth? Whatever it was, in this moment it seemed like the most distant, unfamiliar concept – one I could never truly understand. However, as it usually happens, life had already pulled an ironic joke on me – in two weeks, before I was scheduled to leave for Palestine, I was supposed to go to Imst, a tiny Alpine town in Austria, to work at a UWC short course – titled: “Acting for Peace – The Art of Conflict Transformation.”*

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“My memories are like a shuffled deck of cards,

 each one coming up at random.” – Brian James


This is my first September in Pankow: when I started studying at ECLA three years ago, the classes began in October. This September is awfully similar to an October––perhaps to the October two years ago––the one before my exchange year in Brazil. This ECLA is awfully similar to the ECLA of two years ago. The replica is so well done, that should I not know better, I would think myself crazy. But the keen eye cannot be so easily fooled. No replica is without a flaw and one can notice, if one is to pay attention, that the swing usually found in front of dorm W15 is on the other side of the lawn, that the goals on the football court have green nets on them, and that the bike shed is actually being used to store bikes. Then again, some things are so masterfully reproduced––the sound of birds at three in the morning that mixes with the breaks of the M1 tram at Kuckhoffstrasse (“bitte aussteigen”), or the swoosh of the wind that sounds like the beginning of a rain shower. This swoosh brings the image of Rio summer showers back to my mind so vividly that I can smell the humidity in the heavy hot air. 

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